John Green's novel “The Fault in Our Stars”, which has sold more than seven million copies, is about the “little infinity” shared between two very likeable and very sick teenagers.
John Green's novel “The Fault in Our Stars”, which has sold more than seven million copies, is about the “little infinity” shared between two very likeable and very sick teenagers. I realize that its (mostly young female) fans could probably not care less what a guy in his thirties thinks about the film adaptation of one of their most beloved books. So I should say upfront that I'm also a fan of the book, and I'm mostly happy with the results onscreen. It's not without its problems, but the film adaptation's two perfectly cast leads will capture – and then break – your heart.
Unlike Hazel Grace Lancaster's (Shailey Woodley) relationship with Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), the movie gets off to a rocky start. In voiceover, Hazel explains how, at thirteen, she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer. She basically says the same things she said in the book, but her delivery is a tad perky, and the insistently upbeat music doesn't help. The jokey tone of the early scenes tends to gloss over what Hazel and kids like her have gone through.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is on much sturdier ground when the music cuts out and we just listen to Hazel and Gus talk. I love listening to them talk. “I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once,” Hazel says. There were a lot of sighs and “aww”'s at the screening I attended, and I think that's because Green's engaging authorial voice has been faithfully translated to the screen – not just because Gus's toothy smile could melt a polar icecap.
More clever than it initially seems, the movie's dream-come-true plot has Hazel and Gus using his “Genie wish” (think the Make a Wish Foundation) to fly to Amsterdam so they can meet the author of her favorite book. It ends in the middle of a sentence, and Hazel and Gus are so eager to find out the answers to all of their questions that they don't stop to think how unlikely it is that a reclusive author would be so generous as to, among other perks, pay for their meal at an expensive restaurant. Gorgeously filmed on location, the trip is the movie at its most romantic, and Woodley and Elgort are absolutely radiant in these scenes. They're assisted by some more than capable adults, including Laura Dern as Hazel's mom and a very nasty Willem Dafoe as the boozy, disillusioned author the teens have come to meet.
As readers know, Green has a devastating surprise in store, and what follows is arguably the strongest section in the film, raw and real in a way that the early scenes were not. “It's a good life,” Gus says. It's a good movie, too, one that will leave you with a lump in your throat and a good example of how to live. That's the Genie wish granted by those like Hazel and Gus, whose lives shine briefly but brightly.
“The Fault in Our Stars” is playing at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State Street. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $6.